By:Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.
Stress is a part of everyday life for athletes. The good news is that not all stress is bad stress. In the right amount, stress helps you focus better and achieve what you want.
Stress is a part of everyday life for athletes. The good news is that not all stress is bad stress. In the right amount, stress helps you focus better and achieve what you want. Stress can help athletes be more alert, more motivated, and gain a competitive edge. But bad stress or chronic, non-stop stress is debilitating to an athlete’s health and performance.
Stress occurs when a person perceives that he or she cannot cope with the demands of the environment. Stress occurs as a response to an event that is viewed as threatening, either physical or mental threat. Under stress, persons respond with the “fight or flight response,” which prepares them both mentally and physically to fight or flee the situation. If stress goes on too long, it can be harmful to an athlete’s health and performance.
The sooner you can recognize that you feel stress or anxiety, the faster you can react and shut it down. How do you know when you are under stress? Three changes can occur: (1) Physical, (2) Mental, and (3) Behavioral. Physical changes when under stress may include tense muscles, pounding heart rate, cold or clammy hands, headache, sweating, and a feeling of butterflies in the stomach. Mentally you are stressed when you begin to worry excessively, make poor decisions, have a limited attention span, make mental errors, and are forgetful. Other signs of stress include talking faster than normal, biting one’s nails, pacing, restlessness, hyperactivity, distractibility, and trembling. Under chronic stress the person will seem tired, restless, and feel out of control.
Chronic stress does harm to your health and performance, but moderate stress is helpful to performance. Stress helps you prepare better for the big game, be more alert, and get excited about playing. The important lesson is that you learn when helpful stress turns into harmful stress and be able to cope effectively. Next month, I’ll discuss some stress management techniques.
About the Author
Dr. Patrick J. Cohn is a leading mental game coach who consults with professional and amatuer athletes. He is the author of Going Low, Peak Performance Golf, The Mental Game of Golf and The Mental Art of Putting. For more information call (888) 742-7225. Or sign up for free mental game tips newsletter at: www.peaksports.com.
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